Michelle Yeoh makes Oscar history by winning Best Actress: NPR

Michelle Yeoh is the owner of Laundry Evelyn Wang Everything everywhere at once.

Alison Riggs / A24

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Alison Riggs / A24

Michelle Yeoh is the owner of Laundry Evelyn Wang Everything everywhere at once.

Alison Riggs / A24

For the first time in its 95-year history, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has awarded the Oscar for Best Actress in a Leading Role to a self-identified Asian actress. Michelle Yeoh accepted the Oscar for her role in… Everything everywhere at oncein which she plays Evelyn Wang, a first-generation Chinese immigrant owner of a laundry in which the film’s absurd multiverse revolves.

The “who identifies as Asian” warning is necessary because two actresses – nominee Merle Oberon and two-time Oscar winner Vivien Leigh – hid their Asian ancestry and chose to be white. Previous winners of West Asian descent — Cher (Armenian), Salma Hayek (Lebanese), and Natalie Portman (Israel) — were not identified as Asian.

Yoh received a standing ovation when she walked onto the podium to accept her award.

Waving the Oscar statuette, she said, “For all the little boys and girls watching me tonight, this is a beacon of hope and possibility.

“Ladies, don’t let anyone tell you that you’re past your prime.”

She dedicated her win to her mother, who called her a “superhero”.

Malaysian-born Yeoh became a star of Hong Kong cinema before garnering global attention in films such as Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, Memoirs of a Geisha, Tomorrow Never Dies And Crazy Rich Asians. This was her first Academy Award nomination.

Talking to All things consideredAlyssa Chang Last April, Yeoh said she witnessed a cultural moment where Asians could finally find a bigger voice in Hollywood and society.

“We just have to rock the boat and say, ‘Look at us,'” she said. “Give us a chance—because guess what? We exist in your community. We are part of society and a very, very complicated part of this whole community. That’s the only way we’re going to have more chances—if we fight for and I won’t be able to say, well, I’ll turn the other cheek. Dang – no more turning the other cheek.”

Before tonight’s concert, Yeoh worked on Everything everywhere at once She has received many accolades, including a Golden Globe Award, an Independent Spirit Award, several Domestic Film Critics Awards, a SAG Award, and nominations for a Critics’ Choice Award and a BAFTA Award.

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